Updated Information: Officials have released the name of the man who was killed. William Huntington died in the second Verla International explosion, having gone back into the building to look for survivors of the first explosion.
On November 20, 2017, about 125 people were injured and one person was missing after two explosions occurred at a cosmetics warehouse in New Windsor, NY operated by Verla International. New Windsor is about 55 miles north New York City.
New Windsor police say the first explosion occurred around 10:15 a.m. Monday at the Verla International cosmetics factory. Police say firefighters were inside when the second explosion occurred. https://t.co/FfwhnszN5C pic.twitter.com/urnPXbSJdj
— WITN Headlines (@WITN) November 20, 2017
There were 250 employees in the building, located on Temple Hill Road, when the blast occurred around 10:15 a.m, November 20, 2017. Acrid black smoke from the fire that followed the explosion poured into the 52,000-square-foot facility, making it difficult for some employees to flee. One employee told CBS New York that people were gasping for air as they struggled to escape, and he saw one woman collapse.
“Smoke inhalation can cause severe burns to the esophagus and lungs,” said Fred Pritzker, an attorney who helps people who have been injured in fires file lawsuits for compensation. “Smoke also inhibits the intake of oxygen which is why smoke inhalation is the leading cause of fire fatalities,” he said.
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Because of the potential toxicity of the smoke from the fire, residents and schools within a half mile of the plant were ordered to shelter in place while firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control. Crews from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation were at the site to assess air quality concerns. they urged anyone in the area who was experiencing trouble breathing to seek medical attention.
Seven firefighters who rushed into the burning building were injured when a second explosion occurred. Two of them sustained burn injuries and are receiving treatment at the Westchester Medical Center burn unit in Valhalla. One of them suffered a fracture and was taken to St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh.
OSHA Violations at Verla International
Founded in 1980, Verla is private label cosmetics manufacturer with over 40 lines for nail polish and 40 lines for cosmetics, fragrances and personal care items, according to its website.
During an inspection on April 28 this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found 12 violations, nine of which were considered serious. They included two violations for storage of flammable and combustible liquids, four violations for respiratory protection, one for eye and face protection, one for maintenance of exit routes and one for medical services and first aid.
Multi-Agency Investigation of Verla Fire
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this afternoon the launch of a multi-agency investigation into working conditions at Verla. The investigation will be led by the Department of Labor, the Department of State and Department of Environmental Conservation. In a statement, the governor said, “Worker safety and environmental protection are top priorities and if there was any misconduct or negligence that led to this incident, we will use the full force of the law to hold the company accountable.”